Piracy survivors helped to rebuild after years in captivity
April 27, 2022
In March 2015, Somali pirates hijacked the Iranian fishing vessel FV Siraj and kidnapped four of the crew members, holding them hostage for several years. ISWAN was there for the families of the crew while they waited for their loved ones to return, and we supported the crew members after their release as they started their recovery.
The four Iranian crew members suffered an unimaginable ordeal at the hands of the pirates. When their fishing vessel was hijacked, there was a gun battle between the pirates and the crew in which some crew members were reportedly killed. Other crew members managed to escape, but four were kidnapped and taken to the Galmudug region of Somalia where they were held captive, away from their loved ones and the outside world.
Days became months, which turned into years. Meanwhile, the crew's families could only wait at home for their release.
After more than four years had passed, one of the crew members contracted malaria and became extremely ill. He had a dangerously high temperature and was suffering from severe malnutrition, but the crew had no access to medical facilities.
The pirates agreed to free the ill crew member and the Hostage Support Partnership contacted ISWAN for financial assistance to cover the costs of urgent medical care and security cover for the rescue. A grant was approved through the Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia’s (CGPCS) Piracy Survivor Family Fund administered by ISWAN, and in September 2019, the crew member was rescued and immediately taken to hospital.
After his release, we worked closely with the Iranian Merchant Mariners Syndicate (IMMS), an ITF affiliate union, and Mr. Shahriar Aliabadi (a piracy survivor himself who was supported by ISWAN and now works with us to help other Iranian hostages) to give the crew member the support he needed. This included a grant to cover expenses for his medical treatment, house repairs, his children’s education and other essential livelihood costs while he focused on his rehabilitation.
In the meantime, ISWAN organised for Mr. Aliabadi to visit the hometown of the remaining hostages to find out how to further support their families, who were facing extreme financial troubles. Mr. Aliabadi spent two days with the families and spoke with local leaders to highlight the plight of the crew and their families. The families also received humanitarian assistance from the CGPCS’s Piracy Survivor Family Fund to help them look after their immediate needs, including sending their children back to school and taking care of the medical needs of elders at home.
In August 2020, after 1,975 days in captivity, the remaining three crew members were finally released by the pirates and returned to Iran.
After their release, ISWAN’s Director of Regions Chirag Bahri said:
'The seafarers and their families have suffered immensely during their period of captivity as there was very little communication between them. The families also suffered severe hardship during the five and half years while their loved ones were in captivity. ISWAN worked with number of partners across the globe to help the families through piracy relief funds, and we supported the seafarers after their return from captivity with rehabilitation, including psychological support.'
ISWAN continued to work with the IMMS and Mr. Aliabadi to help the crew members with their recovery. In April 2022, the crew members each received a grant from the CGPCS’s Piracy Survivor Family Fund to help them rebuild their lives, and they were guided on how to use these grants to potentially sustain a livelihood in the future.
ISWAN would like to thank Shahriar Aliabadi for all the support he provided to the seafarers and their families, and for acting as ISWAN’s main point of contact with them. We would also like to thank the IMMS, without whom the grants to the crew would not have been possible, along with all donors to the Piracy Survivor Family Fund and every organisation and authority involved in this case.
If you are a seafarer and you need help in a crisis, you can contact our free, confidential, 24-hour helpline, SeafarerHelp, for guidance and support. All contact details can be found at www.seafarerhelp.org.
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